Some tropical aquatic plants, such as the water hyacinth, get their nutrients from water and require no soil to thrive. This South American native can't handle a freeze, so in Zones 8 and colder, many gardeners keep it as a temporary display for just one season, treating it like an annual.
When a vessel is this distinctive, its form and color practically dictate what kinds of displays to create. Martha's blue-glazed ceramic shell evokes summer at the beach, a time and place indelibly associated with billowing hydrangeas. Luxuriant cuttings from three cultivars, along with some leaves, supply the structure of this design. Airy pink gomphrena and white Cimicifuga cap the sea foam with spray.
At this time of year, it's tempting to create an everything-in-the-vase display that rivals perennial borders at their June peak. But indoors, simpler can be better. Consider combining just a couple of fine specimens: the amazing varieties of one flower, such as alliums, and the gorgeous foliage of another, such as hosta. We used a fluted white vase to focus attention on subtle color harmonies and contrasting silhouettes. On a practical note, alliums need frequent water changes, so refill the vase daily.
Actually an assemblage of several smaller and more manageable arrangements, the setup offers an easy way to tame a fresh-from-the-garden mix of roses, hydrangeas, delphiniums, lady's mantle, scented geraniums, and potato vine. A pitcher in the center gives height, while kitchen crocks (sugar bowls, eggcups) allow the inclusion of short-stemmed beauties.
This summery bouquet mimics fireworks in the sky on the Fourth of July. Silver echinops (also known as globe thistle) and spiky, steel-blue eryngium (or sea holly) mingle with feathery white flowering astilbe. All can be found in farmers' markets and are easy to grow. Cut stems at an angle, and anchor them in a vase using a flower frog. Finish with astilbe foliage and sparklerlike Queen Anne's lace (if planting your own, skip Daucus carota, an invasive weed; instead, try its better-behaved cousin Ammi majus) to set off those big, booming blossoms.
This bouquet of late-blooming annuals -- cut from the garden and tucked into an ironstone vessel alongside a compote of blueberries -- is at once lively and serene. It is the perfect arrangement for outdoor entertaining. An abundance of maroon cosmos mingles with rich indigo larkspur, their stems listing and leaning in the soft, warm breeze.
This Japanese bowl was given to Martha many years ago. "When I received it, I had never seen a yellow, peach, or mauve tree peony, but obviously the painter of the bowl had," says Martha. "Finally my tree peonies matured and now provide blooms of almost the same colors."
Lilac's subtle color variations are perfect for creating painterly, layered arrangements.
Gather blooms in two or more hues and group them by color gradation in a heavy vase. Retain some of the leaves on the shortest stems -- they'll form a bottom border of green. Display the composition in a foyer or another public space, where its heady scent and explosive beauty will dazzle guests.
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